- Museum number
Plaque,caneware and black basalt, oval, ornamented with an applied moulded figure of a chained slave in relief, kneeling, with an inscription impressed above, within a moulded black basalt frame with metal loop for suspension.
- Production date
- 1790 (circa)
Height: 97 millimetres
- Curator's comments
This is an example of Josiah Wedgwood's humanitarian interest in the campaign for the end of slavery, which parallels the concern of some, if not all, French revolutionaries. Though Brissot had formed 'La Société des amis des noirs' in 1788, it was not until 4 February 1794 (16 Pluviose, l'an 11) that slavery was abolished by the Convention. The medallion, modelled by Josiah Wedgwood's chief modeller, William Hackwood (employed 1769, d.1839), is based on the seal of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade established in 1787, and was issued in quantity in a smaller size for jewellery and for the lids of snuffboxes. The same image was used in early 1789 by the Sèvres factory, but at the command of the French colonial administration the medallions were withdrawn lest they provoke unrest among the Negroes.
This is an extremely rare piece. Only one other example, which belongs to the Wedgwood Museum, is know to the author. Modelled in 1787 after the seal of the Slave Emancipation Society which was founded in that year. Wedgwood played an active part in the business of this society and was on its committee by February 1788. In this month he was busy with the affairs of the Society and sent some of his new small cameos of the same subject, also made for the Society, to Benjamin Franklin in America.
The medallion is unusually constructed. Plaster has been used to fix the oval caneware plaque to the moulded basalt frame which is 1.5 cm deep and 5 mm. The layer of plaster extends about 1.5 cm leaving visible the irregular oval of the caneware plaque slightly smaller than the ground of the basalt relief. There is a hole in the top of the basalt frame for suspension, so the object was obviously not intended to be enclosed in a wood or metal frame, despite the rather crude finish of the reverse. Small black and white jasper medallions of this subject are much more common and were used as buttons or brooches (see registration no. 1887,0307,I.683).
- On display (G1/fc24)
- Exhibition history
1990 6 Jun-9 Sep, France, Vizille, Musée de la Révolution Française, The French Revolution : La Version Anglaise
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number